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Photo Illustration: Aytac Unal/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's competition authority announced an investigation Friday into Facebook's acquisition of Giphy, and ordered the social media giant to halt integration of the animated images platform.

Why it matters: Facebook acquired Giphy last month as antitrust enforcers both in the U.S. and around the globe have increased their scrutiny of the power of major U.S. tech companies.

Driving the news: The U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority in an enforcement order directed the companies to operate separately as it investigates the completed acquisition.

  • That includes no changes to key staff of Giphy or transferring of staff between the companies.
  • The order also calls for "no integration of the information technology of the Giphy or Facebook businesses, and the software and hardware platforms of the Giphy business shall remain essentially unchanged."
  • The CMA set a July 3 deadline for comment on the transaction.

What they're saying: Facebook confirms it will pause the integration of Giphy into Instagram while the companies respond. The company argues that its ownership of Giphy will pose no harm to rival tech companies.

  • "Developers and API partners will continue to have the same access to GIPHY, and GIPHY’s creative community will still be able to create great content," a Facebook spokesperson said. "We are prepared to show regulators that this acquisition is positive for consumers, developers, and content creators alike."

Context: The U.K.'s inquiry come after the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission announced its own investigation into the deal this week.

  • The ACCC said it will review whether the deal will provide Facebook with data that will strengthen its power in any markets or enable it to obtain data about its rivals that could reduce competition.
  • In the U.S., neither the Federal Trade Commission or the Justice Department have announced an investigation. The acquisition did not trigger a mandatory merger review in the U.S.

Go deeper: Facebook's Giphy acquisition invites antitrust attention

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 17, 2020 - Technology

Behind Facebook's giant bet on hardware

Photos: Facebook

Facebook's foray into virtual and augmented reality, which it doubled down on this week, is a bet on where the future of online social interaction is heading. But even more important to Facebook, it's also a plan to make sure the company owns a big piece of whatever platform ultimately supplants the smartphone.

Why it matters: In the smartphone era, Facebook has found itself at the mercy of Apple and — to a lesser degree — Google and Android phone makers. The company doesn't want to see history repeat itself.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 16, 2020 - Technology

Facebook updates Quest VR headset, will test sensors for AR glasses

Photo: Facebook

Facebook on Wednesday introduced a new version of its Oculus Quest and took the next step in a longer-term push toward augmented reality glasses.

Why it matters: Facebook has made big bets on virtual reality and augmented reality as key to its future and it is moving forward despite concerns from regulators and privacy advocates.

Sep 16, 2020 - Technology

NYT, Facebook launch multi-year augmented reality reporting project

Screen shots from the NYT's Instagram filters about pollution

The New York Times and Facebook have struck a multi-year partnership to co-develop augmented reality (AR) filters and effects on Instagram that help users access and contextualize New York Times journalism, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: It's the first time that The Times has experimented with augmented reality technology at scale and off of its own website and apps. The partnership also represents an evolution in the relationship between publishers and tech companies.